Most functional RNA molecules have characteristic secondary structures that are highly conserved in evolution. Here we present a method for computing the consensus structure of a set aligned RNA sequences taking into account both thermodynamic stability and sequence covariation. Comparison with phylogenetic structures of rRNAs shows that a reliability of prediction of more than 80% is achieved for only five related sequences. As an application we show that the Early Noduline mRNA contains significant secondary structure that is supported by sequence covariation.
RNA secondary structure prediction, conserved substructures, compensatory mutations
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